Is Your Online Business Internet Law Compliant?By Guest Author: Robert Evans
This article concerns your legal obligations and rights concerning the maintenance of a mailing list and in particular the sending of commercial email. It is a tricky subject. You might even think that it is something which does not affect you, but if you have seen what is currently happening on the internet, and what is going to happen in the not so distant future, then you will also know that to ignore these developments would be to put yourself at unnecessary risk.
In the United States of America, the Federal Trade Commission has already prosecuted a number of well known internet marketers for non compliance of internet law, and these actions are bound to spread worldwide.
In January 2004, the draconian California email laws came into force which immediately started to shake up the online business community, and in early December 2003 similar laws were introduced in England and elsewhere in the European Union.
Does any of this mean anything to you so far? If it doesn't then we've got news for you. Saying that you know nothing about these laws will not protect you. Just as with all other types of law, ignorance is no defence.
Here are a couple of questions to ponder:
You can start off by taking a serious look at the way you run your mailing list. Are you absolutely sure that each and every subscriber has given their direct consent for you to send them commercial email messages? What do we mean by direct consent?
Let's tackle this by looking at what direct consent is NOT.
For example, you operate a mailing list for subscribers who want to know about updates to your site and/or products. On occasion you send these people a message advertising a product or service for which you are an affiliate.
Just because these people are on your mailing list does not give you the express right to send them an advertisement. What you would need to do would be to make it clear, at the time they subscribe, that they will be receiving commercial messages from time to time. And having your subscribers simply click a check box does NOT amount to them giving their direct consent.
You may run an ezine that includes advertisements. But have the subscribers given their direct consent for you to send them ads from third parties? Yes, it really is getting that nit-picky and you will have to work out how to go about getting their consent. Perhaps the most efficient way would be to adopt a double optin policy and be totally upfront from the outset regarding the kind of material you are likely to be sending your subscribers.
If you run a commercial site, you will need a Purchase Agreement for every separate product or service you offer, in addition to the other two pages already mentioned.
And then there is the Data Protection Act (in the UK), which requires certain businesses or companies to register. Cost is £35 per year and is certainly compulsory for all internet-based businesses that digitally store, receive or transmit customer or staff details, such as name, home address, telephone number and email address. Even if you don't have a website, but run a mailing list, you will almost certainly need to register. For more information, go to The UK Data Protection Website: http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk.
About the author:
Copyright © 2005 Robert Evans. Bob Evans has been doing business online since October 2000. He runs a resource center incorporating a powerful marketing action plan that includes all the compliance pages you need http://www.market4profit.net/marketing-action-plan.php.
Click here to sign up for our business advice newsletter.
Copyright © 2004-2007 Divadani Limited. Terms and conditions of use.